Brand Cramp

There are words that war with themselves. In one context they mean one thing, in another, the complete opposite. The 50-cent term for this is contranym. As in “cleave.” In the Bible, men and women are called to turn from father and mother and cleave to one another – come together as one. Yet there are few words as meaty and palpable as cleave when it means to separate. You can practically hear the object whistling through the air as it is brought down, suddenly and violently, cleaving the item that is to become two where it once was one.

We’ve seen this happen with brands. A brand, a promise that exists in the mind of the consumer, can present itself as one thing, winning positive mental real estate in how we perceive and experience it and yet, undermine that position when it behaves in opposition to the promise.

The most prominent, recent example of that is Toyota. Long associated with reliability, the Toyota brand took a hit in 2010 with multiple recalls involving more than 7 million of its vehicles, lawsuits alleging culpability in accidents and management reticence in addressing the issues. All this conspired to plant a question in consumers’ minds as to the reliability, if not safety, of this brand.

Is your organization at war with its brand? Do you know the promise that it makes, or you intend for it to make, in the minds of your consumers?

For some of you, this can be a quick gut check: What is the impression we intend to make, what are we doing to make it and is the attending experience by our consumer / shareholder / employee / community member consistent with that intended impression?

Every organization has, or should have, an intentional vision of who they are to their constituencies. What is yours?

For emerging organizations, or those in transition, going through a branding discipline is solid strategy that gives your entity a clear picture of who you are, informing how you engage your publics and go to market. If you are among those who don’t love process, cling to fact that at the end of a reasonable timeframe, you will know exactly who you are as an organization, and what direction that suggests in terms of strategic marketing and communication.

In my next blog entry, I will walk through the steps that take you from brand cramp to brand smart – what the work looks like when you build your brand right, and manage it once you have. For now, I will leave you with thoughts on a few misconceptions:

  • Your brand is not your logo. It is much more than that. Your logo is just that well-thought-out colored thingie or type treatment of your organization name or, both, that is on your building, letterhead, email, shirt, business cards, marketing materials, water bottles, ball caps, rolling stock, and website. Hope you love it.
  • Your product is not your brand. A product is made in a factory (garage, kitchen table, your mom’s basement,). A brand is bought or engaged by the consumer.
  • If you do not develop and manage your brand, you will become an accidental brand. This possibility should alarm you.